Hogeschool Rotterdam Willem de Kooning Academie

Thematic Projects

Thematic Projects

In this section you will find information about current thematic projects.

In addition to studio space, technical facilities and tutorial support for Self-Directed Research and Practice work, the Master of Fine Art curriculum includes an annually changing programme of thematic seminars and projects, which function as a framework for joint exploration of issues that are relevant to contemporary visual art and theory, culture and society.


What is the offer? Exhibitioning is a verb! (Thinking, making, reading: what do exhibitions do?), a thematic project led by Liesbeth Bik.
November 2017-March 2018 (inclusive), once per month for 2 consecutive days, 6 credits.

We can all see that we are, worldwide, caught in a period of transition. Occupations of public squares, the ‘capturing’ of private information, the dissemination of counterfeit information, the loss of the boundary between public and private, the large flows of refugees escaping war, and climate change, demonstrate the urgency of the question of ‘the public’ as a site of conflict over rights, information, access, relations and objects. The project of global capitalism seems to have almost been accomplished, with considerable loss for citizens all over the globe. The increase in privatisation of public property and the outsourcing of services has led to a loss of public space and rights, while struggles over the definition of democracy are symptomatic of dramatic changes in the character of public life. How capitalisation changes communities and its implications for the type of shared space is not the focus of our work alone, but also a question of society-at-large.
What to do, with our work, our practice, our output? How can we think through ‘making public’, past and current, and how can we speculate toward what is not there yet, and what is needed?
This thematic project considers exhibiting as a verb: as process, performance, incursion, and as cultural technique. As point of departure we will look at examples of exhibitions from the past and present: examples of the mythical, the infamous, the overlooked and the ‘what now?’
What do they do? Together we will embark on fieldwork (reading of texts, archive, exhibitions, and sites), and formulate the issues at stake. We will think through and explore different models, positions and media, related to questions of space and public. As a collaborative team we will experiment with and work on set-ups and a choreography of exhibiting, exposing and making public (format tbd with the group).

The Discovery of Life
, a thematic project led by Jan Verwoert
September-June (inclusive), once per month, 6 credits

The thematic project will look at how, around the turn of the last century, life itself became the key concept at the heart of philosophical, artistic, political and scientific inquiries. The point of departure for our explorations will be the philosophy of Henri Bergson. In close dialogue with the new sciences of his day and age, Bergson developed a critique of (the inherent logic and limits of) scientific rationality, and proposed an alternative path of thinking in tune with the dynamics of ‘creative evolution’ by synching up to the élan vital (the swing of life) via intuition. Not only did Bergson thereby become the artist philosopher of the turn of the century par excellence, his attack particular scientific approaches (Darwin included) kill off the life in evolution in order to turn it into ready-mades awaiting exploitation continues to resonate strongly until today.
Departing from the study of Bergson, we will then look at how the Bohemian culture in Paris developed around an aesthetics of life experiments (experimental lives), in which artistic work becomes inseparable from existential, sexual, spiritual and political experimentation. We will read Djuna Barnes and Simone Weil. 
At the very same, the horror of the Imperialist exploitation of bare lives looms large, as does the Fascist biopolitics of a people’s common fate. We will look at how Achille Mbembe analyses colonial regimes in terms of politics of death, as well as Giorgio Agamben’s understanding of the politics of bare life, as well as his propositions regarding an alternative of the radical aesthetics life developed in Franciscan monasteries (strongly echoing the Bohemian experiment).
Finally, we will attempt to grasp how the contemporary philosophers of science, Karen Barad, picks up on Bergson’s attempts to open up a different horizon in which to understand the life science studies and the ethics of entanglement and responsiveness which, in this light, can be derived from a changed understanding of the perpetual vibrancy of the molecular world.

Performing Drawing with Optics, a thematic project led by Irene Kopelman
Every day, one full week in April, 3 credits

‘Performing Drawing with Optics’ will reflect upon the re-interpretation of historical optical instruments that were used for landscape drawing in the contemporary context. Optical instruments have been of extreme relevance in the history of sciences and art; telescopes were invented to enlarge the observer’s senses and be able to observe something that was out of reach (as the stars), microscopes were invented to see what the naked eye couldn’t see. In history of science many instruments were created to isolate certain aspects of the world (the vacuum is an example).
  The history of human perception is very much related to the history of instruments that could modify, enlarge, and distort people’s perception. The trajectory described is still very much in motion; scientific studies, art manifestations, culture and landscapes are rapidly changing. This intensive weeklong thematic project will create a moment for reflecting upon these changes and how they connect to each other through lectures, excursions, and the practice of drawing.